PROVO — Orem gardeners are better off than they were a year ago, Mayor Jerry Washburn said Friday in his state-of-the-city address before the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce.

Last year's rigorous attack on a dangerous Japanese beetle is expected to have been successful enough that crews will spray a smaller area, and those who live in the spray area will be able to garden because a different pesticide will be use, said Larry Lewis, spokesman for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

"The initial effort to eradicate the Japanese beetles has gone very successfully," Washburn reported, "in fact more successfully than anticipated."

Lewis said the real test will come in the spring when the beetle eggs hatch underground and begin to eat the roots of grass that was sprayed last summer.

"We've laid a time bomb for them," Lewis said. "Last year the adults fed on the leaves we had sprayed. This winter and spring in the ground, the larvae will eat roots laced with pesticides. We'll know exactly how successful we've been in June and July, when traditionally the eggs hatch and the adults emerge to the surface. We expect the numbers to be low."

Crews will set out twice as many traps for the beetles this summer and continue to spray 267 acres, down from about 480 last year.

The approximate boundaries of the 2008 spray area will be from Orem Boulevard to 900 West and from 700 North to Center Street. A five-block area to the north and west of that main area will also be sprayed, Lewis said.

Nearly all Orem residents in the spray area last year gave up gardening to give the beetles less to eat. This year, that restriction will be lifted.

"We're using a pesticide approved for food products, for agricultural use/garden use," Lewis said. "There will be a need for residents to follow guidelines for how soon after spraying they can consume the products. There's a waiting period before they can be consumed."

More information will be sent to Orem residents in the mail next month. Open houses also will be conducted.

Washburn said Orem residents can also expect better driving conditions.

"Last year I told you Orem would look like a battle zone with the number of road construction zones," he said. "And it has."

Work on 1600 North is complete and work on the massive 800 North project will be done next year.

Washburn and Provo Mayor Lewis Billings urged the more than 150 business people at the chamber meeting to support the expansion of I-15. The comment period ended Friday at 5 p.m.

"This project, if we do it, will be a $3.5 billion project," he said. "That's B for big, billion. There are people north of the Point of the Mountain who would love to take those billions for other things."

The option supported by the mayors, known as Option A, would add frontage roads from the University Parkway exit in Orem down to Provo Center Street. More than 400 residents of the Grandview Hill neighborhood in Provo met at an elementary school Wednesday night to protest that option because it would bring new offramps through the neighborhood on a direct route to Brigham Young University.

Billings said his staff is addressing the neighbors' concerns.

Both mayors said national groups continue to consider Provo and Orem to be safe cities that are family friendly.

"Really," Washburn said, "these are the most livable places in the world."

E-mail: [email protected]