Government, in our democratic society, relies upon citizen participation to assure its proper functioning. Some are chosen by their fellow citizens to serve in elected positions in government while others serve without formal office. It is the participation of those citizen activists which provides the spark to start the engine of government and turn its wheels.

The late John F. Collins distinguished himself as such a citizen through his service as the chairman of the Lockport Highway Association in 1983 which, under his leadership and often upon the force of his personal resolve and commitment, succeeded in securing funds for the completion of the important highway project commonly referred to as "Four Lanes to Lockport."

I remember reading in the local press about how John F. Collins would take local city, town, county and state officials, including the Department of Transportation administrators, and television and newspaper reporters, on extended local tours to discuss the many benefits of spending mega millions of dollars to construct the first-ever, continuous four-lane highway system between Lockport and Buffalo.

Before a lot of today's Western New York driving population came along, there was no major vehicular arterial linking Lockport and Buffalo. Much of the northern Erie County route to Buffalo through Amherst was by two-lane roads, mainly Millersport Road.

John F. Collins came up with the original plan to widen Millersport to four lanes and build a new highway linking "Millersport Highway" with the 290 Youngmann Expressway which became known as the "Four Lanes to Lockport" project.

With a committee chaired by John F. Collins, the initial $20 million Four Lanes phase began with construction of the first segment of the Interstate 990, from the I-290 to Sweet Home Road and then the I-990 was extended from Sweet Home north to French Road and finally to Millersport Highway, which was widened to four lanes, creating the first-ever continuous four-lane route between Lockport and Buffalo.

For the successful completion of these and many other of his volunteer business efforts, Collins was selected by the Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce as its Citizen of the Year in 1984.

I think it's about time our local and state officials recognize Mr. Collins for his achievement somewhere along that magnificent four-lane highway and I would be more than happy to assist in any way I can.

Attorney John J. Ottaviano resides in Lockport.

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