McLEAN, Va. (AP) — After decades of planning, delays and blown budget projections, Metro officials said Monday that they expect a $2.9 billion segment of a new Silver Line serving northern Virginia to open next month.

On a conference call with reporters, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said enough progress has been made to safely project July 26 as the date the five new stations will open.

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The inaugural train will leave the Reston station at noon, Sarles said.

The line runs through Tysons Corner from Reston to Falls Church on a route that roughly parallels the Dulles Toll Road. Preliminary work has begun on a second phase that will extend the line to Dulles International Airport. Phase II is projected to open in 2018.

Regional planners had sought the Metrorail extension for decades. Ten years ago, when planning began in earnest, officials believed the line would cost $1.5 billion and be finished by 2009.

The project teetered on collapse for several years as federal rail officials questioned the cost of the project in relation to the projected ridership. Engineers shaved costs in part by opting to build nearly all of the line above ground, disappointing those who believed a tunnel would be a less disruptive alternative.

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When construction began in 2009, the plan had been for passenger service to begin late in 2013. But construction delays pushed the start date back by seven months. Sarles said Metro lost between $2 million and $3 million in projected revenue every month that service was delayed.

One positive about the July opening, Sarles said, is that it occurs in late summer months when many Washingtonians are on vacation and ridership dips, allowing for a smoother transition as Metro adjusts its train schedules to accommodate the new line.

Sarles said it is an “unlikely possibility” that any problems will pop up between now and July 26 to postpone the projected opening. The biggest item left on the to-do list, Sarles said, is obtaining certificates of occupancy from state officials.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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