Forth Road Bridge bosses had considered replacing the part of the crossing which cracked five years ago but decided not to, Holyrood’s transport minister has said.
Derek Mackay said the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (Feta) – the body which operated the bridge at the time – had looked at maintenance work which would have “seen the replacement of that area and much more”.
He made the comments as the Scottish Government faced calls from Labour and the Conservatives to hold an inquiry into why the crossing – which is used by an estimated 70,000 vehicles a day – had to be closed to all traffic.
The Scottish Government announced on Friday the bridge, which links Edinburgh with Fife, would be closed until the new year after engineers spotted the structural fault.
Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley is calling for a parliamentary inquiry while the Tories want an independent inquiry to be set up.
Mr Mackay insisted the Scottish Government – which took over responsibility for the bridge after Feta was dissolved – had been “transparent about the issues as they have emerged”.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland: “Fundamentally, all critical works requested for the Forth Road Bridge have been funded and have been undertaken.”
While Mr Mackay said the fault in the bridge was only believed to have occurred “in the last few weeks”, he said Feta had been looking at carrying out wider work in 2010.
“It would have seen the replacement of that area and much more,” he said.
He added the authority had “re-scoped” the project after receiving advice from engineers.
Mr Mackay said: “Feta, the operating company at the time, would have been informed that other works would have addressed what was identified to be the problem. On that advice, they re-scoped their work and that is what we inherited.”
He stated: “They believed, on their engineering advice, that very specific works on strengthening could be carried out to address some of the issues they had identified and they had re-scoped their own work and progressed with that.
“That’s what the Scottish Government inherited, that’s what we were getting on with.”
Mr Mackay pointed out the bridge is “over 51 years old, it’s been carrying more than it was designed for by way of traffic and weight”.
He insisted: “This problem was not predicted at the fault where it is cracked, but we are remedying it, we are fixing it and we will get the bridge reopened as quickly as possible.”
He also stressed there had been been “ongoing investment” in the bridge, with maintenance plans carried over when responsibility for the structure switched from Feta to the Scottish Government.
“They were not reduced from what was inherited,” the transport minister said.
“Since 2007-08 the Scottish Government has invested over £100 million on the bridge and Feta, the previous organising committee, invested over £100 million.”
The Scottish Government is also funding the new Queensferry Crossing to replace the existing bridge at a cost of £1.3 billion.
Mr Mackay said: “Resources have been directed to the bridges, the existing and new bridge.
“The priority right now has to be to ensure that the engineers with all the expertise on that bridge are working on that bridge 24/7 to get it sorted as quickly as possible.”