The Long Island Rail Road's new president ironed out many of the problems that arose in building a rail link between the nation's capital and Washington Dulles International Airport, project officials said Wednesday.

Patrick A. Nowakowski, 60, hired five years ago as the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project's executive director, oversaw the first phase of the 23-mile extension and helped recommend future cost-cutting moves.

"He's an operations guy; he's not a construction guy. This was kind of a new area for him, but I thought he did a splendid job," said project chairman Tom Davis, a former Virginia congressman.

Still, the first phase isn't expected to open until late July, about six months late. And the roughly $3 billion project so far will cost about $150 million more than initially planned.

"I don't fault him at all for that; it was kind of built into the project," Davis said of the cost overruns.

Sharon Bulova, chairwoman of the Fairfax County board of supervisors, praised Nowakow-ski for working smoothly with all of the groups involved in the project, including organized labor.

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"There have not been any kind of labor problems . . . The safety record has been outstanding," said Bulova.

Denise Richardson, managing director of the General Contractors Association of New York, hailed Nowakowski as "a strong leader" who "successfully managed one of the largest rail expansion capital projects in the country."

With Darran Simon and Alfonso Castillo