The New York State Thruway Authority is telling motorists to look out for the gantry. What exactly is that and why is it so important?

In an attempt to get motorists used to some big changes on the New York State Thruway system, the state has launched an advertising campaign to educate the public. Press releases and advertisements tell drivers to "look out for the gantry," which sounds pretty important. The only problem is that most people don't know what the hell a gantry is.

Sometimes people can get really caught up in what they do for a living, assuming incorrectly that the rest of the world is as invested in their job they are. You probably know someone like this. One of my family members is a law enforcement officer and is always talking shop. When she says "I responded to a 10-33 today." I'll fire back with my own job jargon that she knows nothing about. "If you think that's tough, our Comrex crapped out so I had to pot up the Telos and record it through VoxPro." Then we'll just sit there in silence for the rest of dinner.

With all of their gantry talk, I think the folks at the New York State Thruway would fit in perfectly around our dining room table.

OK, so what's this gantry thing all about?

As we know, the Thruway is transitioning to cashless tolling. Booths up and down I-87 and at Hudson River crossings are being torn down, with drivers no longer having to stop to pay their toll. Instead, EZ-Pass badges are automatically scanned and license plate numbers are photographed to record who will receive a bill in the mail.

Instead of toll booths, the Thruway has erected giant steel structures over the road holding cameras and EZ-Pass scanners. The technical term for these metal overhangs is a gantry.

Defined as "an overhead bridge-like structure supporting equipment such as a crane, signals, or cameras," gantries have been used on railroads, highways and even space launching pads for centuries. While most people weren't aware they ever had an official name, everyone knows what they are when they see them.

Because the Thruway Authority has been planning their cashless tolling system for decades, the term "gantry" has most likely been bandied about at the office so much that it's become an integral part of their language and culture. But for those of us on the outside, hearing someone tell us to "watch out for the gantry" when driving can be a bit confusing.

But now that we all know that a gantry is nothing to fear or worry about we can carry with our lives as normal.

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