New service standards for first class mail begin next week

The United States Postal Service, working to cut back its expenses, will announce on Monday new first class mail delivery standards that could end overnight deliveries in metro areas, but hope remains that some one-day deliveries will be unaffected.

Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson said Friday that those new standards won’t affect service in the Tacoma area until at least July, the tentative date the Postal Service has set for consolidating its Tacoma Pine Street mail sorting center into the Seattle-area sorting center in Tukwila.

The Postal Service has been warning its employees and customers since 2011 that the Tacoma sorting center could be closed and its functions moved to Tukwila, but further studies and congressional opposition have staved off that consolidation. The Tacoma center is one of 82 the USPS says it will close this year.

The post office says the consolidation will help it save $750 million annually.

Swanson said that even after the consolidation is accomplished, some overnight service could persist in the Tacoma area.

“If someone mailed a letter early in the day, there would be a good chance it could be transported to Tukwila, sorted and sent back to Tacoma for next day delivery,” he said. “The distance is only about 30 miles.”

The Postal Service initially planned to keep only two sorting centers in Washington, one in Seattle for Western Washington and the other in Spokane for Eastern Washington. Under that plan, a letter mailed in Wenatchee, for instance, for delivery in Chelan, 39 miles away, would be sent to Spokane, 170 miles away, for sorting and then sent to Chelan.

The consolidation effort still faces opposition in Congress.

Postal workers are also upset about the scheduled changes.

“It’s an outrage,” said American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein. “Eight years after Congress ginned up a fake financial crisis for the Postal Service, its members still refuse to take even the smallest steps to prevent a major hit on this great national treasure.”

The long lead time before the consolidations has helped regular workers either find new jobs or retire. The center, at 4001 S. Pine St., will remain open as a post office.