Extensive weaknesses in Metro's management of subway construction in the mid-1980s, detailed in an internal report obtained by The Washington Post, left a legacy of problems that threatens to further delay the opening of its new line.

Although Metro blames its contractors -- having fired the company that fell behind in building two Green Line stations -- the report from a consultant hired by the federal government said the transit authority failed to properly oversee the projects.

Metro put contractors in charge of monitoring themselves, the report said, allowing them to determine whether their work met Metro standards. Metro's employees were neither trained nor experienced enough to be certain that the contractors were doing their jobs, the consultant said.

The report found that Metro "did not provide adequate measures {to ensure} that the authority was aware of the quality of its construction activities."

Transit officials supervised subway projects with a system that was "outdated and somewhat unresponsive to the need for timely, accurate and internally consistent information required to effectively manage the Metrorail program," the report said.

The result, according to consultant Day & Zimmerman Inc. and Stone & Webster Engineering Corp., was a pattern over several years of poor quality control of construction work, unsafe work sites, incorrect building designs, incomplete reporting of construction progress and inadequate monitoring of changes in contracts.

Although the consulting work was completed in March, Metro officials would release only one page of the report in response to an inquiry from The Post. That page generally praised the transit authority's current construction management and concluded that problems had been corrected.

The complete report, much of it highly critical of Metro's past practices, was obtained recently from federal transportation officials in reply to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Metro's deputy general manager, John S. Egbert, said the problems at the two Green Line stations are not signals of even more delays ahead.

"I don't think it's a harbinger of a lot of problems for us, or a manifestation of our procedures coming unglued or anything like that," he said.

In the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest Washington, where the disruption caused by subway construction has suspended recovery from the devastation of the 1968 riots, the delays in building the Green Line have prolonged the misery of residents living amid ripped-up streets, isolated small businesses and gaping gashes in the earth.

"We're still under siege," said Jamal Muhammed, manager of Talib's Discount Clothing on Seventh Street NW.

Muhammed says he has heard Metro blame its construction contractor for delays on the project, but says he holds the transit agency responsible for the mess that has driven away most of his customers.

"Metro is the one instituting the construction. Naturally, the buck stops at Metro," he said.

The Shaw station is one of four where construction is a year behind schedule. Delays on the station forced Metro to postpone the opening of the first section of the Green Line.

Metro's only unopened line has been held up for decades by lawsuits, community conflicts and fights over federal financing. When complete, the line will run from Greenbelt, through Northwest and Southwest Washington to Anacostia. Riders are expected to make more than 51,000 trips each weekday on the line.

The line is expected to bring economic development to some of the region's most blighted areas, subway service to some of its poorest residents and a way for more suburban commuters to escape traffic congestion.

The Green Line is part of a plan to add 19.5 miles of Metrorail and 13 stations over the next three years to the 69.6 miles and 61 stations now in service. The plan includes opening the Red Line from Silver Spring to Wheaton on Sept. 22, the first Metro extension since the Orange Line reached Vienna in June 1986.

Federal and local governments have spent $5.2 billion so far to build Metro, which opened with five Red Line stations in March 1976. The current construction will cost another $2.1 billion. In the future, Metro plans to add another 13.5 miles, if the federal government agrees to pick up most of the $2.7 billion cost.

But Metro must first complete the Green Line. Two months after the consultant's report was finished, the transit agency found itself forced to fire Mergentime/Perini Joint Venture as builder of the line's Shaw and U Street stations.

Even though other Green Line projects also are behind schedule, Metro officials continue to insist that there will be no further delays in the planned opening of the line to Anacostia in 1991 and to Greenbelt in 1993.

Metro officials also said for months that problems at the Shaw and U Street stations would not delay their scheduled December openings. Metro later was forced to put off the openings until next spring.

John F. McElhenny, Metro's assistant general manager for design construction and facilities maintenance, said the problem with the Shaw and U Street stations was that "an uncooperative contractor refused to continue to work while we were trying to resolve our outstanding differences."

However, Metro General Manager Carmen E. Turner has ordered an internal review of the agency's management of the project. The review is expected to be completed within 90 days.

Some Metro officials and city sources confirm privately that Metro has been lax in supervising the contractors. "We sort of created our own problem by not overseeing the {Shaw} contract as well as we should have," said one Metro board source who asked not to be identified.

For example, Metro did not audit construction of the Shaw station for more than a year after work began in late 1985. The project should have been audited at least four times in that period, the consultant's report said.

The consultant also found three other construction sites had been audited only once by Metro, in a "superficial" manner.

Metro officials said they were closely monitoring the quality of construction on the stations -- the purpose of an audit -- but had not kept the kind of records the consultant wanted. "We didn't have a sufficient paper trail to document what we had done," McElhenny said.

The U.S. Urban Mass Transportation Administration hired the consultant to monitor Metro's construction management as part of a 1986 agreement to provide federal money to pay for subway construction.

The consultant's report said some of Metro's management problems dated to the time when the widely respected Bechtel Group Inc. was phased out after a decade as Metro's construction manager.

Bechtel, the San Francisco-based engineering and construction giant, had some problems; it shared the blame for a construction accident that flooded part of the Blue Line in August 1977.

When the Metro board hesitated before renewing Bechtel's $19 million contract that year, company officials promised to pay closer attention to the quality of construction. The company's Metro work after that was highly regarded.

But as construction started slowing down in the early 1980s, and Metro came under intense pressure from the Reagan administration to hold down costs, the transit authority decided to take over the management chores to save money. Bechtel was phased out, with Metro absorbing about 100 of its employees from 1982 to 1985.

The consultant praised the Bechtel phaseout as a cost-cutting measure, but found that, "During the transition period . . . neither {Metro's} staff nor its contractors were accustomed to their new roles."

Metro's McElhenny disagreed, describing the transition as "a well-designed transfer of responsibility" that brought much of Bechtel's experience and expertise to Metro's staff.

According to the consultant's report, other management problems included:

Unsafe construction sites. The consultant visited three sites and found several safety violations at each, including 18 at the Mount Vernon-UDC and U Street stations. Metro shut down the sites to correct the problems, which included earthen walls that were caving in, oil spills, an absence of fire extinguishers and an uncovered, energized electrical wiring box near a neighboring apartment complex. Safety problems also plagued the Shaw station site well into this spring, angering neighborhood residents.

Metro officials "are on the contractors all the time to maintain a safe working environment," McElhenny said. "Some contractors are more cooperative than others."

Poor review of construction designs. "Incorrect design drawings were released for bids," the report said.

Moseman Construction Co., the firm building the Prince Georges Plaza station on the Green Line, has sued Metro for $4.7 million, alleging the transit agency's inaccurate documents are partly responsible for that project falling a year behind schedule.

Metro officials said they would not comment on Moseman's allegations while the case is in litigation. Metro spokeswoman Beverly Silverberg said the consultant's criticism reflected a difference with Metro over record-keeping.

Poor monitoring of changes in contracts and of contractors' claims. Metro frequently orders changes in work plans, which is common on all large construction projects. The contractor makes the change and submits a claim to be paid for the extra work.

The consultant found that Metro had no running total of its many contract changes and claims, and found some unresolved contractor claims dating to the early 1970s. Two contractors currently suing Metro allege the transit agency has ignored their claims, creating financial problems for them and slowing work on Green Line construction.

One of the contractors is Moseman Construction. The other is Mergentime/Perini Joint Venture, which was building the Shaw and U Street stations until it was fired in May. Mergentime/Perini sued Metro for $18.5 million, contending it was owed the money for extra work and alleging that Metro had been excessively slow in processing its claims.

Mergentime Corp., one of the partners in the joint venture, also is building the Navy Yard station on the Green Line in Southeast Washington. Work there is a year behind schedule, and the company said a claims dispute has slowed work.

Metro officials said they don't have the documents needed to act on many of Mergentime's claims, and say that is Mergentime's fault.

The consultant recommended several changes in Metro's contract management practices, which Metro adopted. The report concluded that Metro has now corrected its problems and "is capable of successfully managing all aspects of the project . . . . {Metro's} staff is both highly qualified and experienced in the design and construction of rail transit systems."

The Urban Mass Transportation Administration "is satisfied {Metro managers} are doing what they need to do," said spokesman Richard L. Centner Jr. "We'll be watching to see if the changes made work as well as we expect."

In the Shaw neighborhood, merchants and residents will be watching too.

"We're very angry and we're still suffering," said Carol Caldwell, spokeswoman for Shaw PAC, a community development organization. "Metro's contractors have used and abused us, and Metro allowed them to do so . . . . Since 1985, we trusted Metro. But now we agree wholly, it was Metro's responsibility."

Metro's lax construction management in the mid-1980s threatens to delay the opening of four Green Line subway stations begun during that time. Building the stations is now a year behind schedule. The stations:

Shaw-Howard University, beneath Seventh Street NW between R and T streets, previously scheduled to open Dec. 1, but recently postponed until spring. Mergentime/Perini Joint Venture won the contract for $50.8 million on Aug. 17, 1985.

U Street-Cardozo, beneath U Street NW between 10th and 13th streets. The station opening also has been postponed until next spring. Mergentime/Perini Joint Venture won the contract for $44.2 million on March 27, 1986.

The Shaw and U Street stations and a third at Mount Vernon Square are on the first of three segments expected to open over the next three years. That section would run from the existing Gallery Place-Chinatown station to U and 13th streets NW.

Navy Yard, under M Street SE between Half Street and New Jersey Avenue, expected to open in late 1991. The station is on the Green Line segment that would run from the existing L'Enfant Plaza station to Anacostia. Mergentime Corp., one of the partners in the joint venture, won the $36.2 million contract on Nov. 20, 1986.

Prince Georges Plaza, south of East-West Highway and west of Belcrest Road in Hyattsville. Moseman Construction Co. won the $39.6 million contract on May 11, 1987. The station is expected to open in late 1993 as part of the Green Line segment that would run from the existing Fort Totten station to Greenbelt.