Mail destined for Tucson will begin being processed in Phoenix sometime this year, rather than next year as was originally planned.

The U.S. Postal Service recently began consolidating its mail-processing centers in a bid to save billions of dollars.

On Feb. 25, the Cherrybell Stravenue processing facility stopped processing outbound mail and turned over those duties to a facility in Phoenix.

At the time, Postal Service officials said inbound mail would continue to be processed in Tucson until next February.

However, the Postal Service announced Tuesday that the Tucson Processing and Distribution Center is one of 54 area mail-processing sites that are being consolidated sooner than anticipated.

"Our dire financial condition requires us to accelerate consolidation of these facilities," Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman wrote in a letter to Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz.

Peter Hass, spokesman for the Postal Service's Arizona District, said he does not know specifically when the consolidation will happen.

The 146 employees whose jobs will be impacted will be reassigned to a different facility or job or given a different shift, Hass said. All consolidation action will be made in compliance with applicable laws, collective-bargaining agreements and the Postal Service's regulations and policies, he said.

Employees have known for a year about the consolidations, which were prompted by a 30 percent decline in the volume of mail handled by the Postal Service over the last five years, Hass said.

"I don't have a reaction one way or the other," about the expedited process, Hass said.

The Postal Service doesn't anticipate any changes in delivery times, but it is possible overnight, one-day and two-day deliveries will eventually be affected, Hass said.

Last month, Postal Service spokesman Rob Soler said 461 mail-processing centers nationwide will be consolidated to 232 by the end of 2014.

Ending processing operations at the Cherrybell center will save the Postal Service $14 million a year, Soler said.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or