WASHINGTON — The coming year could be fertile ground for public-private partnerships, especially in the transportation sector, but states and localities probably will have to go without federal help and enter deals cautiously so as not to kill public support for them, market sources say.

Public-private partnerships are hundreds of years old — the first recorded P3 was in 1680. During the past year, states have been trending toward more P3-financed infrastructure. The country will enter 2010 with 26 states or territories holding significant legal authority to do P3s, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. As illustrated by the recent transaction entered into by MAT Concessionaire LLC for the Port of Miami Tunnel, states are finding private capital again as the credit market thaws.

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