Plan to route Grand Junction mail to Denver and back gets pushback from Bennet and 19 other senators

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
Grand Junction, Colorado, seen from the Colorado National Monument.

Updated at 1:28 p.m. on Friday, March 15, 2024.

A proposal that would lead to Grand Junction mail being processed in Denver before returning west for delivery doesn’t sit well with some federal lawmakers, including Colorado’s senior senator.

Sen. Michael Bennet joined 19 other Democrats from around the country in authoring a letter to the Postmaster General asking to halt any changes that “will result in job losses and further degrade mail delivery performance across the network, especially in rural states.” The letter happens to coincide with a major spring snowstorm this week that shut down Colorado’s primary transportation artery, a concern from locals in Grand Junction who have been fighting the plan.

“While the Postal Service states there will be no career layoffs or slowed service, we are concerned these facility reviews will functionally result in both,” the letter reads. “In many instances, outgoing mail processing will move hundreds of miles to a regional facility, outside reasonable commuting distance and, in some cases, to another state entirely.” 

The plan is a part of the U.S. Postal Service’s Delivering For America initiative, which seeks to modernize and update the nation’s mail delivery amid years of budget shortfalls. For Western Colorado, that would mean converting Grand Junction’s post office from a regional processing and distribution center to a local processing center — a move that would send the region’s local mail to Denver and back again.

The postal service says that only about 10 percent of the mail through Grand Junction is local and that delivery times would still be met. Shane McDonnell, vice president of Western Colorado Area Local 600, said there’s plenty to be skeptical about with that claim. 

“Unfortunately, the postal service has more and more slowed down the service, but then they cut their standards and say, ‘Oh, now our standards are two to three days or three to five days,’” McDonnell said. “And they keep moving those standards back and moving those goalposts back.”

Post office employees, local officials and residents addressed the changes at a public comment forum in Grand Junction in late February. In addition to delays in service, residents pointed to concerns about mail ballots and the reassignment of more than 30 career positions. 

The letter, and the range of Senators who signed onto it, highlights the degree to which the Delivering For America changes are not just a Grand Junction issue. Wyoming would lose all outgoing mail processing in the state, with those duties proposed to shift from Casper to Billings, Montana. 

“For rural communities across the impacted states, the loss of local jobs—at the Postal Service and nearby businesses that serve postal workers—and even slower mail service represent further setbacks to the revitalization of rural life,” the letter reads. 

The Delivering For America plan is a 10-year effort that will eventually invest $40 billion into postal processing, according to the USPS. Grand Junction’s facility would receive millions in upgrades to equipment and facility improvements in order to process mail differently, but at the expense of handling local mail. Public comment on the proposal ended March 8.