WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Railroad Administration blames ''significant'' safety problems at Conrail on the transition from a public to a private railroad, and on managers more concerned about profits than precautions.

The FRA released a sharply critical, 800-page safety assessment of Conrail on Monday and announced that the 14-state freight railroad faces between $1.5 million and $2 million in new fines.

FRA Administrator John Riley told reporters that Conrail has faced a tough transition as it passed out of government hands and became a private entity last year.

''The bottom line is that what you have in Conrail is a company which has been under unusual pressures in the past two to three years,'' Riley said. ''They've gone through a restructuring from a government-owned company to a privately-owned company and put a tremendous emphasis on restoring the profitability of their operations so they can stand alone.''

Conrail was sold by the government in a public stock offering on March 26, 1987. Officially the Consolidated Rail Corp., it operates in 14 Eastern and Midwestern states.

The problems cited in the report ranged from poorly trained track inspectors to alleged under-reporting of job-related injuries and accidents. The report said many of the problems stemmed from the failure of Conrail management to provide proper guidance on safety matters.

''FRA found what appears to be a systemic fault within Conrail: too many middle and upper-middle managers value 'production' over 'safety,' and fail to translate the organizational safety commitment into effective safety programs,'' the agency said.

Violations uncovered during the groundwork for the report are expected to yield between $1.5 million and $2 million in fines, Riley said.

Conrail is to issue a formal response to the report within two months.

In a statement from its Philadelphia headquarters, Conrail said it was addressing problems identified by FRA but a preliminary company review ''indicates that there are a number of instances where Conrail will disagree'' with the regulatory agency.