Post office changes trigger traffic problem

Published 5:00 pm Monday, October 27, 2008

Traffic around the Helena post office has become dangerous since U.S. Postal Service officials made changes to the traffic flow around the building, said Helena Police Chief Doug Jones.

The post office is located at the corner of Highway 261 and Highway 52, two of Helena’s busiest roads. With two entrances feeding into the post office parking lot off both highways, traffic was frequently backed up.

To solve the problem, U.S. Postal Service officials made the parking lot one-way, with traffic feeding in off Highway 52 and turning out onto Highway 261.

Jones said instead of helping, the change has just made a bad situation worse.

“The problem is that the post office is way too small for this area’s population,” he said. “People have to turn left to go south on 261, and some people leave a gap open so they can turn. So they can’t see oncoming traffic. It’s just a matter of time before we have a wreck because of that.”

Helena police are left with their hands tied because the post office is on private property. Because of that, officers can’t enforce the one-way stipulation.

Doug Kyle, spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service, said the changes were made to cut down on the risk of accidents. Motorists will have to get used to the changes because there are no plans to build a new post office in Helena, he said.

“This was done because there are no plans to replace that post office. We are going to be at that location for the foreseeable future,” he said. “The best thing we can do at that location is have traffic flow in one direction.”

Jones said although the traffic changes were made about two months ago, motorists still have not adjusted.

“I saw some of them going in the exit and coming out the entrance,” he said. “We have major traffic backups in the morning time and the evening time.”

The U.S. Postal Service has also tried to cut down on traffic at the post office by asking area businesses to serve as contract postal units, where customers could take care of their postal needs without having to go to the post office.

However, no Helena businesses have shown interest, Kyle said.