An early step in Amtrak's plans to rebuild rail infrastructure in the area is replacement of the aging Portal drawbridge in Kearney; the bridge spans the Hackensack River and opens occasionally for marine traffic, but frequently has malfunctioned, leading to delays in train traffic. The current plan is first to replace the existing bridge with a high-level bridge that could accommodate marine traffic without a drawbridge. This first stage is estimated to cost $1.5 billion, and finding financing has been a problem. The bridge is part of Amtrak's Gateway project, which would build a four-track railroad between Newark and New York, including a second Hackensack bridge, two new tunnels under the Hudson, and expansion of Penn Station in Manhattan into the city block to the south of the existing structure.  Advocates of the project thought they had a commitment from Washington to pay for half of it, but President Trump has backed away from that, and the Federal Transit Administration has criticized the project for its lack of local funding participation.

On Wednesday, June 13, the NJ Transit board of directors approved a resolution committing the state, through its Economic Development Authority, to borrow up the $600 million as the state's portion of the new bridge project. The action was reported by Larry Higgs for the Star-Ledger (and printed in the June 14 edition of the paper).  The action was applauded by the Regional Plan Association, which gave credit to NJ Gov. Murphy, and by NJ Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, who said that the commitment would allow the state to refile the project plans with the federal government and would demonstrate that the state is behind the project.

Critics of the plan note that there is very little marine traffic on the Hackensack River; that it has decreased markedly recently and consists only of occasional barges hauling sewage sludge; and say that impact on rail passengers could be made very low simply by negotiating with the barge operators to do their shipping in the middle of the night.