By Owen Boss, Antonio Planas

The blizzard-battered commuter rail and subway will not be back to normal for "at least" another 30 days, the transit authority's embattled general manager admitted yesterday, forecasting a bleak month of long, expensive slogs for hundreds of thousands of commuters -- as another storm looms.

"The 8 feet of snow that has been dumped on our transit system over the past three weeks has very honestly crippled our infrastructure and our vehicle fleet -- not to mention the real toll that it has take on our workforce and that of our contractors," MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott said yesterday. "These unprecedented storms have caused us both operational challenges -- which quite candidly everyone is feeling -- and in some instances some pretty severe damage that is going to take us some time to drag ourselves out of."

Despite vowing to implement what she called an "operating and service restoration and recovery Marshall plan" aimed at "strategically and methodically taking the system back line by line, vehicle by vehicle, station by station," Scott said riders can expect service cancellations and lengthy delays to continue for the foreseeable future.

"In order to be able to say we're back to normalcy, that's going to take probably at least about a good 30 days for us," Scott said, adding that "this is not something that we an just throw magic dust on and make it be all OK tomorrow."

The average weekday ridership for the entire system is approximately 1.3 million passenger trips, but the winter's record-setting storms have created repeated delays and cancellations, forcing commuters into cars and taxi services on snow-clogged roads.

The MBTA will offer "reduced core service" again today, MBTA Deputy General Manager Sean McCarthy said, with service gaps filled by bus shuttle service on the Red, Orange and Green lines. The commuter rail will operate on a "reduced schedule," he said.

Hull and Hingham ferry services have been canceled due to ice in the harbor.

Union workers and prison inmates lent the MBTA a much-needed hand with clearing snow and ice from buried Red Line tracks yesterday and even more will be called in today, McCarthy said. Local members of the Service Employees International Union, workers from the Boston Building Trades and dozens of Department of Correction inmates will be out in full force shoveling snow off the tracks, he said.

With another 3 or 4 inches of snow expected to fall on the Hub by this afternoon and a "potential significant storm coming next weekend," Mayor Martin J. Walsh urged Boston residents to remain calm and asked for patience as snowplows work to clear snow-narrowed streets.

"It's important we stay focused and not let the frustration get the best of us as we move forward. I know a lot of people are just tired and don't know what to do about the snow," Walsh said, but added residents are showing a "special" grit and compassion for neighbors.

"The residents of the city are very special. Just watching everyone help each other, that's what I love seeing about the snow. But I know people are ready to move on, ready for the spring."

Nearly 16,000 truckloads of snow, translating to 320,000 cubic yards, have been removed from Boston streets in the past three weeks, a Walsh spokeswoman said, and more than 40,000 tons of snow has been melted at the city's seven snow farms.

(c)2015 the Boston Herald