MONTARA -- The people behind "the people's tunnel" gathered Monday to see their vision become a reality.

Several dozen alumni of one of the most remarkable grass-roots political campaigns in San Mateo County history joined politicians and a throng of media for a ceremony to commemorate the opening of the Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devil's Slide.

The event included remarks by Reps. Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo, who first entered the debate over Devil's Slide while serving together on the county Board of Supervisors in the 1980s, and Annette Lantos, wife of the late congressman for whom the twin 4,200-foot tunnels are named. Afterward a parade of cars, some from the early 1900s, made their way through the tunnels for the first time.

The unique character of the community that defeated, and then befriended, Caltrans was on display throughout the event. A Dolorean and a unicycle were among the vehicles in the parade. A Pacifica man dressed as the devil and Captain Tunnel, aka Moss Beach resident Ann Forrister, strolled through the gleaming, state-of-the-art tunnels.

"Caltrans," said Zoe Kersteen-Tucker, a leader of the grass-roots movement, "aren't you glad we made you build this?"

The state agency was planning to build a freeway bypass through the mountains to the east until the passage of a 1996 ballot measure requiring them to build the tunnels. The fight came about due to the frequent landslides that closed the notorious stretch of Highway 1 at Devil's Slide.


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Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.