The Maryland Transit Administration denied a public information request for surveillance video footage of a downtown Light Rail station collapsing into the street, saying that would “jeopardize the security” of its camera system.
The Baltimore Sun filed the request after a ramp and platform that allow disabled patrons to access Light Rail trains collapsed July 10 into an underground void at Howard and West Pratt streets. Two days earlier, a water main break washed out a large area beneath the transit stop.
In denying the petition, the agency cited a portion of the Maryland Public Information Act that allows state officials to withhold records regarding emergency planning and response. The law also says the state can withhold records if disclosure would jeopardize the security of any building or structure; facilitate the planning of a terrorist attack; or endanger the life or physical safety of any person.
It’s the same argument the agency has offered for years in denying any public access to video captured at the Mondawmin Mall transit hub in West Baltimore on April 27, 2015. That is where a clash between Baltimore police and city youth began hours after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who died of spinal injuries he received while in police custody.
The MTA argues that releasing such video would reveal the locations of cameras, and that that needs to remain secret in the interest of public safety. Earlier, the agency told The Sun it could not release the footage because it was being used in ongoing investigations.
In the case of the downtown sinkhole, Google Street View images of the Light Rail stop captured before the water main break occurred clearly show what appear to be at least five surveillance cameras mounted on poles on either side of the tracks.
The infrastructure damage has required Light Rail riders to take a shuttle between North Avenue and Camden Yards for nearly a month. City public works officials this week suggested full transit service will not be restored until the second half of August.