A plan to establish bus service between Freeport, Yarmouth and Portland passed a major hurdle on Tuesday when the Freeport Town Council voted to support a three-year pilot program that could begin as early as next summer.

The Yarmouth Town Council had already indicated support for a somewhat different version of the program, which is being developed by the METRO/Greater Portland Transit District.

If the agency wins federal funding for the project, it would be its first service expansion since establishing a route between Portland and Falmouth 10 years ago.

“This is one very important step,” METRO general manager Greg Jordan said on Wednesday. “We are not all the way there yet, but we hope to be.”

The bus would not stop in Cumberland because officials there decided last month not to participate in the project.

The Freeport Town Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday to support the project. Jordan next will sit down with the Yarmouth Town Council to discuss the modifications to the proposed service it endorsed in July.

The original plan focused on providing frequent service during the morning and evening commuting hours and would have also stopped in Cumberland. But that plan had to be revamped after the Cumberland Town Council voted 4-3 against a resolution pledging the town’s support of the pilot program, which would cost each town an average of $30,000 annually for the first three years of the program.

A federal grant would provide $675,000 for the first three years of the project, and other federal funds are available to purchase the three buses for the route, Jordan said. If the two towns agree to make it a permanent route, the service would cost each town as much $60,000 annually.

METRO changed the proposed service after Cumberland dropped out and to respond to feedback from officials in Freeport and Yarmouth. The service would operate three buses throughout the day, running a loop from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., with buses leaving at 60- to 75-minute intervals. The total cost of the project and the contribution from each town has not changed, Jordan said.

Yarmouth Town Manager Nat Tupper believes that Yarmouth councilors will approve the changes because they believe a bus that operates all day will better serve people who need a bus for basic transportation rather than just for commuting. He said there is a growing number of seniors in Yarmouth who no longer drive and need a way to get around for things like shopping and doctor’s visits.

Tupper and Jordan on Wednesday said they are trying to arrange a date for Jordan to speak to the Yarmouth council.

The new route would be faster than the original proposal because buses would travel on I-295 south of Yarmouth rather than on Route 1, although some buses during the middle of the day would stop in the Route 1 business district in Falmouth, Jordan said. Also, the new plan calls for the bus to travel to the Portland Transportation Center, for connections with Amtrak trains and Concord Coach Lines buses, in addition to stopping in downtown Portland.

The fare would be a flat $3. The service would be Monday through Friday, but Saturday could be an option. The buses, which would hold 20 to 30 people, would also carry bike racks. Yarmouth and Freeport would each have two stops.