USPS Reveals Purpose Behind Green ‘Relay’ Mailboxes in Webster Hill District

A relay box located at the corner of Westbrook Road and Glenbrook Road in West Hartford. Photo Credit: Gillian Hixson.

According to the United States Postal Service website, these dark green ‘relay’ mailboxes, which are located around West Hartford, are to aid mail carriers in delivering large volumes of mail.

By Gillian Hixson

Driving through the area of West Hartford near Webster Hill School, it is hard to miss the dark brownish-green mailboxes sitting on concrete slabs. These mailboxes not only differ in color, but they lack the pull-down letter slot and distinct signage on the typical blue United States Postal Service (USPS) mailbox.

According to the USPS Glossary of Postal Terms published in July 2013 and publicly available online, a “relay box” is “an olive green lockable receptacle in which city carriers leave mail on the line of travel for later pickup and delivery by another carrier.”

A relay box located at the corner of Westbrook Road and Glenbrook Road in West Hartford. Photo Credit: Gillian Hixson.

The term “relay” found on the outside of each relay box refers to a related USPS term also found in the glossary. A “relay” is “mail that a city carrier prepares in sacks or flat trays for delivery to relay drop boxes or collection boxes along the line of travel of a route. A relay may weigh up to 35 pounds.”

These relay boxes may be eyesores to members of the community, but they serve a purpose to mail carriers. As explained in the USPS glossary, mail carriers complete their regular “carry-out mail” and then defer to the relay box to grab additional mail for delivery. This process is termed a “relay route” in the USPS glossary.

Though the relay boxes resemble the standard blue mailbox in shape, they serve no direct purpose to mail recipients or senders in the community.

After speaking with several USPS representatives, it was determined that obtaining information specific to the relay boxes located in West Hartford would require special governmental clearance. These clearances are in place to prevent individuals from breaking into the relay boxes, a USPS representative explained.

Therefore, it is unknown as to how permanent these relay boxes, which mysteriously appeared about a year ago, are in the Webster Hill community and around West Hartford at this time.

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Gillian Hixson


    • Frankly they blend in more than the traditional blue mailboxes, which have been disappearing all over the country. This is not the first time West Hartford has had these green boxes. Online shopping probably contributes to the “problem.”

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