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City official disputes Post Office’s release on reduced service

The U.S. Postal Service said Monday that pickup and delivery of mail for business and residents near the Baltimore Grand Prix course would be curtailed, but at least one city official said he was “stunned” by the announcement.

Grand Prix racing begins Friday on a 2.1-mile loop through downtown Baltimore. On Monday, the Baltimore post office removed several of its blue mail boxes in the 21201, 21202 and 21230 ZIP Codes because, it said, construction and road closures are going to block many of the bins. These boxes are expected to be reinstalled Sept. 6, according to the USPS.

But Baltimore City Councilman William H. Cole IV said Monday that the post office never verified with city officials about traffic plans and that the box removals were unnecessary.

“I am stunned is an understatement,” Cole said. “We even made accommodations so they can get in Friday and Saturday. This is one of those situations where I don’t even begin to know why they did this without verifying with the city.”

USPS officials did not return numerous phone calls and emails seeking comment.

The post office said in a release that it would attempt to keep delivering to downtown office and residential customers during the week and the race weekend, but that traffic congestion and road closures could prevent it from delivering as usual.

Cole, however, said that while the removed boxes won’t be reinstalled until after the race, the notices will be taken down, and residential mail delivery will continue as usual.

“You talk about coming out of left field,” Cole said. “We had planned for every scenario — fire, police, etc. It was always accepted that the post office would have accessibility.”

In the release, the USPS said it was expecting service to be interrupted in Ridgely’s Delight, Otterbein and upper Federal Hill. Those customers, if affected, can pick up mail at the downtown delivery annex at 1000 E. Lexington St. Residents in the 21230 delivery area can pick up mail at South Station post office at 146 W. Ostend St. Regular collection and delivery of mail will resume Sept. 6, the release said.

Mail boxes were scheduled to be removed Monday on Baltimore, Calvert, Barre, Camden, Lee Boyle, Bush, Light, Charles, Green, Lombard, Pratt, Paca, Penn Redwood, Sharp, South and Water streets, and at 31 Hopkins Plaza and on Washington Boulevard.

But private parcel delivery companies expect service to continue as usual.

Mark Dickens, a spokesman for UPS in Atlanta, said in an emailed response to questions that the company is still determining which businesses will be open in the downtown Baltimore area on Friday. Based on that information, UPS will determine contingency delivery plans if needed, Dickens said. Saturday is not a full delivery day for UPS, he said.

Scott Fiedler, a spokesman for FedEx Corp. in Memphis, also said the company’s local office has been working with city officials to create contingency plans to minimize service delays.

Road closures began Monday on some of the race route roadways. As the week progresses, additional closures along the course are expected to be implemented, according to a statement by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc.

Hanover Street between Pratt and Lombard streets, and Eutaw Street between Pratt and West Camden streets closed Monday evening. Eutaw will close after the end of the Baltimore Orioles game and will reopen Wednesday evening for hotel access, but will close again Friday morning.

On Tuesday, Charles Street between Pratt and Lombard streets will close, and Camden Street between Paca and Eutaw streets will close.

“Everybody’s just trying to figure out what’s going to happen,” said Nan Rohrer, vice president of economic development and planning for Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. “It has been made clear from everyone from the mayor’s office, to Councilman Cole to the partnership, that people should still have access and be able to run their businesses. But it’s going to exercise a little patience.”