An example is the Horseshoe project being built by Pegasus Link Constructors, a joint venture comprising Fluor Enterprises and Balfour Beatty Infrastructure. When completed in 2017, the Horseshoe will revitalize the intersection of I-30 and I35E at Dallas' downtown as well as construct new bridges across the Trinity River for those highways.

While the $798-million design-build job is being financed completely by the state agency, the contractor has undertaken the risk involved with the design and construction. While this type of P3 doesn't provide the enormous financial leverage of P3s involving concessionaires, it does permit the agency to maximize the cost-effectiveness of the construction effort.

The problem of Texas' funding gap for transportation is not likely to be resolved soon, and, TxDOT officials note, P3s are not a cure-all for the problem. They are an effective solution for specific transportation needs. But the innovation that marks the states' use of P3s suggests the way to attack the issue.

"We're not counting on somebody else to solve our problems," Wilson says. "We're going to stand up and take a leadership position to find solutions and, like a magnet, draw other people to it."