Transportation officials called it a triumph for Maryland's big man, beach-loving Gov. William Donald Schaefer, and for the man on the street -- the thousands of area motorists who head east to ocean resorts for the weekend.

"Reach the Beach," Schaefer's interagency campaign to help motorists get into the swim instead of wading through traffic jams, is ending its first season to the general satisfaction of its creators, despite more muted praise from some motorists.

"I certainly do think it's a success," said Hal Kassoff, state Department of Transportation administrator and head of the "Reach the Beach" task force.

Success, however, doesn't mean the program -- intended to widen roads, encourage off-peak travel and generally make getting to the beach easier -- ended all traffic problems, officials said.

"The expectations of the task force were that it will have been a success if people notice that things were a little better," Kassoff said. "We knew we couldn't eliminate the traffic jams completely . . . . But the general consensus is that it really worked a lot better."

By one standard, at least -- how many people reached the beach -- the program was a clear success, officials said.

"We managed to far surpass the theoretical capacities of these roads," said Ed Buck of the state highway administration. "We used to be absolutely mind-boggled if we had 3,500 cars an hour on Rte. 50; this year we had up to 4,300."

Most opposing testimony is anecdotal.

"Well, I'm trying to be objective, but I got caught in a couple of traffic jams, and once it happens to you, you become just another frustrated driver," said William Zorzi of the Maryland American Automobile Association.

"I think 'Reach the Beach' put a small dent in" the traffic, said Zorzi. "It made people conscious of {the advantage} of staggered hours. It may have helped en route. But the real problem is the volume of standing traffic. Ocean City is just oversaturated . . . . Eventually, people are going to have to find someplace else to go."

That's one problem no state agency can solve: How to create more ocean.

"Reach the Beach" was the slogan given a series of projects aimed at easing summer traffic jams that threaten to turn Rte. 50 into a permanent tourist trap.

They combined direct treatment (expanding the aging Chesapeake Bay Bridge and reducing the openings of the Kent Narrows drawbridge) with long-term therapy (widening overworked Rte. 50) and psychology (offering food and motel discounts to drivers who crossed the Bay Bridge at off-peak hours).

Although the majority of area sun-worshipers make the 140-mile trek from Washington to Ocean City, swelling its year-round population of 6,000 to a sweaty 350,000 in August, thousands more prefer the Delaware beaches. Either way, they must use the Bay Bridge, where Friday night backups of five to six miles are legendary. Between 60,000 and 80,000 cars cross the bridge every Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the summer.

But this year, with the addition of two express lanes in each direction and more spread-out traffic patterns, even the bridgework was a better fit. Bay Bridge Superintendent Louis Kelley said, "We handled more cars per day, per hour: One Saturday between 7 and 8 {a.m.} we moved more than 4,000 cars . . . and we could send over that much traffic because there was someplace for them to go."

Where the cars went included new third lanes of Rte. 50 from the Bay Bridge almost to Kent Island and the new four-lane bridge over the Choptank River near Cambridge.

Officials also installed a traffic advisory hot line, electronic signs and radio stations along Rte. 50. Along with traffic speeds and backup warnings, the toll-free hot line includes an advertisement for the program and home state boosterism: "We hope the 'Reach the Beach' program was of assistance this summer, and made your trip a little more safe and enjoyable . . . Don't forget the seafood festival at Sandy Point State Park this weekend . . . See ya there!"

This year's "Reach the Beach" campaign was the beginning of a five-year revamping, officials said. Construction is already under way to widen the four-lane stretch of Rte. 50 near Cambridge to six lanes, as well as renovations of other roads leading to the Maryland and Delaware beaches.

"Our next big project -- we're putting bids out on it next month -- is the bridge at Vienna over the Nanticoke River," Kassoff said. "Our hope is that {it} will be completed by Memorial Day 1989, and that'll take care of the last two-lane stretch of Route 50."

After that, Kassoff said, the state will embark on a $75 million reconstruction of Rte. 50 that will include a bridge arching over Kent Island: "That will settle the drawbridge issue."