NEW YORK (AP) _ Bell Atlantic Corp., the Northeast's dominant phone company, has agreed to merge with GTE Corp., one of the nation's largest local phone service providers, in the latest mega-combination to reshape the telecommunications industry, a source familiar with the transaction said late Monday.

The deal was to be announced at a news conference Tuesday morning, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The source described the deal as a merger of equals in which the new board of the combined entity would be drawn equally from each company. The deal was a stock swap in which the Bell Atlantic shares would be used to pay for the transaction.

The deal would be one of the biggest corporate mergers of all time in the United States. The source would not reveal the value of the deal, but published reports have put it at around $55 billion.