Yeah, don't let perfect be the enemy of the good - the line will never get any cheaper than it is now.
I think the value is raising the issue is four key aspects of P3s that are, in fact, inflating cost vs traditional procurement and operations.
1) By the far the biggest underlying issue is financing. Aside from the total absence of any capital from current spending (its all debt based); any P3 consortium is financing the cost at commercial market rates, which are at least a 300 basis point spread (3%) over what the government would borrow at using bonds. That literally doubles the interest bill and adds billions with a B to the project cost.
2) On the capital project itself, everything that's contracted out has a mark-up (for profit) associated with it vs traditional procurement. To be clear, even in the former system the vast majority of architecture and engineering is contracted out. But in the older system, of decades past, you contracted out the engineering of the tunnels as a single package (with a certain amount of the work having been done in-house), and its the standard mark-up for an engineering firm. Generally in the P3 model, the engineering firm has a mark-up billed to the consortium, who then apply an additional mark-up before it gets to the government. That's a lot of marking up!
3) The nature of these consortium contracts is that they are so large, there are literally no more than 3 potential bidders for any job and sometimes only one. That's not competitive capitalism. That's oligopolistic, crony capitalism.
The result is certainly inflated prices; beyond any gouging involved, a key factor is risk-management; for private enterprise, exposing itself to bankruptcy-level risks is dangerous, and this requires padding bids with liberal contingencies that will, if the project is well run, simply be banked by the consortia. This doesn't occur at the nearly the same level with much smaller contracts in traditional procurement.
4) We're throwing in operations/maintenance. Sure, a worker for the consortium may ultimately be paid less, though that isn't a given and may be reflected in work quality; but there really isn't any savings for the government vs doing these
in-house, and in fact, there may be considerable added cost in light of the mark-ups involved. Let me give a simple example on lawn mowing. The City may have once paid someone a decent wage to do this in-house (I'm making a up a number here), lets say $28 per hour + benefits. A contractor comes in and pays minimum or just above with less/no benefits. So they are paying $17 per hour. But that's not what the City gets charged. The City pays $36 per hour or more.
For clarity, I'm making up the numbers for this precise example, but I do have real information, but can't name the companies and positions involved. The City may argue it doesn't have to insure said contractors, or handle their training, but in reality, its getting less well paid, less well trained, less motivated staff at a greater hourly cost.
None of the above is to suggest walking away at this juncture.
But rather that we need to revisit how we do these in the future.
Flushing Billions of dollars down the toilet, which is what P3s do, is antithetical to both traditional, small-c conservatives and to small p progressives.