WASHINGTON — Rain, sleet, and night’s gloom may not keep postal carriers from the doors of Americans, but budget woes might.
With the Postal Service facing billions of dollars in annual losses, most door-to-door delivery service could be phased out by 2022 under a plan a House panel was considering Wednesday. Curbside delivery, which includes deliveries to mailboxes at the end of driveways, and cluster box delivery would replace letter carriers slipping mail into front-door boxes.
The proposal is part of broader legislation by Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The plan is designed to cut costs by up to $4.5 billion a year. The Postal Service had a $16 billion loss last year.
The agency has been moving toward curbside and cluster box delivery in new residential developments since the 1970s. The Postal Service in April began deciding whether to provide such delivery for those in newly built homes rather than allowing developers to decide.
About one in three mail customers has door-to-door delivery, Issa said. The shift would include safe and secure cluster box delivery areas, he said, especially for elderly people who receive Social Security checks and prescriptions by mail.
About 30 million residential addresses get delivery to boxes at the door or a mail slot. Another 87 million get curbside or cluster box delivery.
Representative Stephen Lynch, Democrat of South Boston, said the plan to move some 30 million residential addresses from to-the-door to curbside and cluster box service would be virtually impossible in dense urban areas such as his hometown, crowded with three-deckers.
‘‘You’d have to knock houses down in my neighborhood to build cluster boxes,’’ Lynch said. ‘‘This will not work.’’
Curbside delivery costs an average of $224 per year for each address, while cluster box delivery averages $160. Door-to-door delivery costs about $350 per year.
The Senate last year passed a bill that would have stopped the Postal Service from eliminating Saturday service for at least two years and required it to try two years of aggressive cost cutting instead. The House didn’t pass a bill.