The Federal Reserve Board approved the merger of Bank of Boston Corp. and Bay Banks Inc., both headquartered in Boston.

In its 22-page order, released late Wednesday, the Fed rejected a protest filed under Community Reinvestment Act by the Rhode Island Community Reinvestment Association. The group had criticized the reinvestment record of Rhode Island Hospital Trust National Bank, a Bank of Boston subsidiary in Providence. Hospital Trust earned an "outstanding" rating in its last CRA exam.

The combined bank, called BankBoston, is the nation's 15th largest with $59.5 billion in assets. The banks had to divest $860 million in deposits in Massachusetts to win regulatory approval.

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