Summit Natural Gas on Friday broke ground on its $42 million project to bring natural gas service to Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth by 2017.

At a groundbreaking ceremony at Cumberland Fairgrounds, company and town officials celebrated the launch of a project that will require crews to lay 245 miles of pipe and distribution pipelines by 2017. The company, which has already installed more than 130 miles of pipeline in central Maine, expects to serve roughly 8,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in the three Portland suburbs over the next five years. It claims to have already signed up 500 customers in the three towns and will be ready to serve its first customers along the main distribution line in the early fall.

Construction will start first along three main corridors that lead from the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline to the three population centers. Construction will be heaviest along Blanchard and Tuttle roads, and Routes 1 and 88.

The three suburban towns chose Summit in a competitive bid process. Municipal officials are working closely with the utility, and have largely embraced the aggressive project, which will create roughly 200 jobs.

“Bringing natural gas to underserved communities is our company mission at Summit Natural Gas. I applaud the three town managers who had the vision, fortitude, foresight, and a plan to make natural gas available in their respective communities,” Mike Minkos, president of Summit Natural Gas of Maine, said in a statement. “As a Maine-based company, our team is thrilled that we will soon provide service to customers in the southern part of the state. Today marks the beginning of an opportunity for residents and businesses in these three towns to start lowering their heating costs and we’re excited to get started.”

The major contractors for the project will be Bond Brothers Inc., Cianbro, Priority Utility Construction and Shaw Brothers Construction Inc.